Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Necessity of Social Control

The Necessity of Social Control

Foreword by John Bellamy Foster
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 328
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Necessity of Social Control
    Book Description:

    As John Bellamy Foster writes in his foreword to the present book, "István Mészáros is one of the greatest philosophers that the historical materialist tradition has yet produced. His work stands practically alone today in the depth of its analysis of Marx's theory of alienation, the structural crisis of capital, the demise of Soviet-style post-revolutionary societies, and the necessary conditions of the transition to socialism. His dialectical inquiry into social structure and forms of consciousness-a systematic critique of the prevailing forms of thought-is unequaled in our time."

    Mészáros is the author of magisterial works likeBeyond CapitalandSocial Structures of Forms of Consciousness, but his work can seem daunting to those unacquainted with his thought. Here, for the first time, is a concise and accessible overview of Mészáros's ideas, designed by the author himself and covering the broad scope of his work, from the shortcomings of bourgeois economics to the degeneration of the capital system to the transition to socialism.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-541-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. 9-22)
    John Bellamy Foster

    István mészáros is one of the greatest philosophers that the historical materialist tradition has yet produced. His work stands practically alone today in the depth of its analysis of Marx’s theory of alienation, the structural crisis of capital, the demise of Soviet-style post-revolutionary societies, and the necessary conditions of the transition to socialism. His dialectical inquiry into social structure and forms of consciousness— a systematic critique of the prevailing forms of thought—is unequaled in our time. No less a historical figure than Hugo Chávez referred to him as the “pathfinder” of twenty-first century socialism.¹

    The present book grew out...

  4. 1. The Necessity of Social Control
    (pp. 23-51)

    In the deeply moving final pages of one of his last works Isaac Deutscher wrote:

    The technological basis of modern society, its structure and its conflicts are international or even universal in character; they tend toward international or universal solutions. And there are the unprecedented dangers threatening our biological existence. These, above all, press for the unification of mankind, which cannot be achieved without an integrating principle of social organization. … The present ideological deadlock and the social status quo hardly serve as the basis either for the solution of the problems of our epoch or even for mankind’s survival....

  5. 2. Marxism Today
    (pp. 52-62)

    Radical Philosophy: You met Sartre in 1957. Why did you decide to write a book on him?²³

    István Mészáros: I always felt that Marxists owed a great debt to Sartre because we live in an age in which the power of capital is overbearing, where, significantly, the commonplace platitude of politicians is that “there is no alternative,” whether you think of Mrs. Thatcher, or Gorbachev, who endlessly repeated the same until he had to find out, like Mrs. Thatcher, that after all there had to be an alternative to both of them. But it goes on and on, and if...

  6. 3. Causality, Time, and Forms of Mediation
    (pp. 63-79)

    3.1.1 / The most problematical aspect of the capital system, notwithstanding its incommensurable power as a mode of social metabolic control, is its total inability toaddress causes as causes, no matter how serious their implications in the longer run.24This is not a transient phenomenon—historically surmountable—but an irremediable structural dimension of the expansion-oriented capital system that in its necessary remedial actions must seek solutions to all problems and contradictions generated within its framework by adjustments made strictly at the level ofeffects and consequences.

    Relative limits of the system are those that can be overcome by progressively...

  7. 4. The Activation of Capital’s Absolute Limits
    (pp. 80-91)

    Every system of social metabolic reproduction has its intrinsic or absolute limits which cannot be transcended without changing the prevailing mode of control into a qualitatively different one.34When such limits are reached in the course of historical development, it becomes imperative to transform the established order’s structural parameters—or, in other words, its objective “practical premises”—which normally circumscribe the overall margin of adjustment of the reproductive practices feasible under the circumstances. To do so means subjecting to a fundamental critical scrutiny nothing less than the historically given society’s most basic practical orienting principles and their instrumental/institutional corollaries. For...

  8. 5. The Meaning of Black Mondays (and Wednesdays) 1995 Postscript to “The Present Crisis”
    (pp. 92-96)

    A few weeks after the completion of this article—to be precise: on Monday, October 21, 1987—we were entertained with the spectacle of a big tumble on the world’s stock exchanges.⁴⁴ This must have been part of the “healthy continuation of economic expansion,” since it happened so soon after that reassuring statement made by the U.S. Federal Reserve governor at the time, Robert Heller. The aftermath of this event was also very interesting, and to the world of big business no doubt also reassuring. For the governments of the capitalistically advanced countries instituted some binding measures and the corresponding...

  9. 6. The Potentially Deadliest Phase of Imperialism
    (pp. 97-120)

    6.1 / One of the weightiest contradictions and limitations of the capital system concerns the relationship between the globalizing tendency of transnational capital in the economic domain and the continued dominance of the national states as the comprehensive political command structure of the established order. In other words, notwithstanding all efforts of the dominant powers to make their own national states triumph over the others and thereby prevail as the state of the capital system as such, precipitating humankind in the course of such attempts into the bloodletting vicissitudes of two horrendous world wars in the twentieth century, the national...

  10. 7. The Challenge of Sustainable Development and the Culture of Substantive Equality
    (pp. 121-129)

    Two, closely connected, propositions are at the center of this chapter.102The first is that if development in the future is notsustainabledevelopment, there will be no significant development at all, no matter how badly needed; only frustrated attempts to try to square the circle, as in the last few decades, marked by ever more elusive “modernizing” theories and practices, condescendingly prescribed to the so-called Third World by the spokesmen of former colonial powers. And the corollary second proposition is that the condition inseparable from the pursuit of sustainable development is the progressive realization ofsubstantive equality. It must...

  11. 8. Another World Is Possible and Necessary
    (pp. 130-176)

    In the first edition ofThe Power of Ideology—a book completed in August 1988—I quoted from an important and most revealing lecture given in 1930 by John Maynard Keynes.¹¹³ In those days the leading ideologists of the given social order, highly confident of their secure position in determining what was to be legitimate (or ruled out of order) in theoretical and political discussions, as if it was their birthright, had no qualms about openly declaring their ideological interests. This was in sharp contrast to hiding behind the pretenses of a presumed absolute objectivity—which became fashionable somewhat later...

  12. 9. Alternative to Parliamentarism Unifying the Material Reproductive and the Political Sphere
    (pp. 177-198)

    9.1 / In 1995, two years before the formation of Tony Blair’s government in Britain, I was writing in sharply negative terms about“the coming Pyrrhic electoral victory”of “New Labour.”172My concern in anticipating a social and political disaster to come after the self-deceiving electoral “victory” was not simply the state of the British Labour Party. Rather, it was the much broader significance of the political developments we had to witness for a long time, resulting in very similar retrograde transformations not only in Britain but in the Western labor movement in general. I argued that “as things stand...

  13. 10. Reflections on the New International Dedicated to the memory and legacy of President Hugo Chávez
    (pp. 199-217)

    10.1 / The need for the establishment and successful operation of theNew Internationalis painfully obvious and urgent today.192The enemies of a historically sustainable societal reproductive order, who still occupy at the present time the dominant position in our increasingly endangered world, do not hesitate for a moment to exploit in the interest of their destructive design, with utmost cynicism and hypocrisy, the existing decision-making and opinion-forming organs of the international community, from the Security Council of the United Nations to the great multiplicity of the national and international press and to the other mass media under their...

  14. 11. Structural Crisis Needs Structural Change
    (pp. 218-230)

    When stressing the need for a radical structural change it must be made clear right from the beginning that this is not a call for an unrealizable utopia.204On the contrary, the primary defining characteristic of modern utopian theories was precisely the projection that their intended improvement in the conditions of the workers’ lives could be achieved well within theexisting structural frameworkof the criticized societies. Thus Robert Owen of New Lanark, for instance, who had an ultimately untenable business partnership with the utilitarian liberal philosopher Jeremy Bentham, attempted the general realization of his enlightened social and educational reforms...

  15. 12. The Mountain We Must Conquer: Reflections on the State
    (pp. 231-296)

    Under the conditions of the capital system’s deepening structural crisis the problems of the state loom, inevitably, ever larger.216For in the long established mode of overall political decision-making processes the state is expected to provide the solution to so many problems that darken our horizion, but fails to do so. On the contrary, attempted state remedial measures—from dangerous military interventions to addressing grave financial collapses on a monumental scale, including rescue operations of private capitalism undertaken by ever-escalating state debt to the tune of trillions of dollars—seem to aggravate the problems, despite vain reassurances to the contrary....

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 297-298)

    This is the size of the mountain wemustclimb and conquer. Some time ago I spoke of “Himalayan obstacle.” That seems like a real understatement. Our mountain is many Himalayas on top of one another. And there are no native Sherpas to be exploited for the hard work. We must do it ourselves, and we can do it only if we are willing to confont the real stakes and the real obstacles.

    The contingencies of our situation, highlighting the limits of our social metabolic order, are not only painful, they are inalterably alsoglobal contingencies, with their sobering implications....

  17. Notes
    (pp. 299-320)
  18. Index
    (pp. 321-326)